If you’re on the fence I’d say totally wait. Improvements are always coming. Prices are dropping. I can’t wait for the day I can get a ‘reliable’ SLA (resin based like the Form1) printer for under 1000
Yeah. That’s where we are. I’m an early adopter, but even I can’t justify it today.
I almost bought an Original Prusa last month but I’m just not convinced I’d make enough use of it. Like others have said here, I’m going to try to hold out for another generation or two and re-evaluate.
I almost did the same thing, but they take like 7 to 10 weeks to ship it so I bought the A8, just for fun
BTW, any recommendation on PLA or ABS brands?
That’s my problem, I can’t think of enough real world
uses to justify the purchase.
I really like 3D printing so buckle up for this one!
I may come under fire for this, but I have much more use for my 3D printer than my laser cutter. FWIW, I don’t physically have my laser cutter yet. I got a Shapeoko 3 for Christmas but haven’t used it yet either. So I’m no expert on the latter 2, but I do think that all 3 have their place.
I’m a computer programmer so all my fabrication is DIY / hobby. However, I do a fair bit of woodwork. I don’t have a wood shop, simply because I don’t have a facility for it. No garage, no big shed. But I own the (cheap) tools. I actually carry my shop tools up the stairs to use them on the outside patio so I don’t have large ones. Given that, I’d say that I don’t use my 3D printer AT ALL for woodworking. I use mine for other areas of fabrication. It could be more useful in a proper shop, but I can’t attest to that. You might find a CNC router to be a better use of your money and space.
I use my 3D printer for all manner of things. I don’t own it for any particular purpose but find that it easily earns its place with a long history of useful little things and a few big ones. But even the little ones are big victories because they are fast (compared to buying something online), they are customized and they are relatively inexpensive / nearly free (unlike typical laser-cut or milled materials).
I don’t abuse my printer by printing things that should be done on a laser cutter or CNC mill. I only print small items which should be made of plastic.
Not all of these parts listed below were printed due to changing needs or missed deadlines. But all were designed and most of the designs were finished and ready to print.
So let’s see the list!
I print mounts and stands of all kinds for all things. A webcam clip, RSA tokens (USB dongles) badges, clips, all perfectly customized to the application at hand. They can conform perfectly to my monitor, my car, my body, my helmet, my motorcycle, my furniture, anything I need. I very seldom print anything directly from someone else’s design. I nearly always design things from scratch.
I have printed gears and cogs for my cousin’s steampunk cosplay costume.
I printed a prosthetic fingernail for myself when my real one was torn off. This didn’t go quite as planned but it did work and protected my finger beautifully until the nail grew back.
I design cases for my electronics. Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, C.H.I.P., custom circuit boards and some other things.
My work badge hangs from a lanyard with a bunch of accessories. I printed a necklace / case that everything clips into.
I have printed Halloween props and small robotics with it. These include small animated wearable monsters and Arduino-controlled face-tracking monster neck / head.
I have printed RC quadcopter parts.
I designed a cell-phone mount to print for my cousin’s car.
I printed a family of ice-skating penguins to replace the ice-skating humans on my wife’s new skating rink in her North Pole Christmas Village (there are no humans at the North Pole and something had to be done). Same height, scale and theme as the existing penguins.
I printed little tetrahedron feet to hold up pieces of wood that have been stained on both sides to minimize the surface on which they sit.
I print little plastic patches for plastic glue jobs. I have an awesome fan but I tripped over it in the dark and smashed the grate. I was able to glue most of the grate back together but there are some broad pieces that need their edges glued together and there isn’t enough surface. So I print a broad patch to go across the two broad edges to give them a large gluing surface. I use a lot of epoxy in my 3D printed projects.
I have had a set of drill bits for 20 years and the case is nice and the drill bits are nice. The case broke one day and instead of putting the bits into an ugly wood block which won’t retain them nicely, I designed and printed replacement parts for the existing case. I cut off the broken parts and glued on the new ones. Good. As. New.
My wife made a wooden treasure chest as a gift for a teacher at the kids’ school and wanted 3D plastic lettering across the top of it. Done. This would have been better with a laser cutter, but I don’t have one yet.
I have a hall closet with no door on it. But the door hinges are there. We hang the flyswatter on the vacant door hinge but it kept falling off. So I made a 3-way hanger to be attached to the door hinge using the hinge pin to retain it. Now my flyswatters never fall off.
My cousin came to me with a broken plastic part and declared it to be a shower hinge. I measured and redesigned it to be stronger and printed a new one. It took two iterations to get it right but it has not broken since. Imagine the trouble he would have had in trying to find a replacement parts kit, if he could find one at all, only to have the OEM part break again. He likely would have had to replace the shower door entirely.
My bathroom sink had a drain plug which can be opened or closed from the tap. It broke. I had lots of gross options but I chose to replace it with a drain screen which is perfectly customized to nest in my sink drain. There couldn’t be a better fit. It used to clog constantly and now that’s fixed too.
There are some automatic lights in a building that I visit with button switches which have disappeared and plates which have broken. I am working on replacing both with 3D printed parts, since the facilities refuse to do so. I can’t blame them. They’d have to buy and install whole new switches to fix it.
For a scorpion-hunting trip, my son wanted a belt clip for his UV flashlight. We designed one that would easily attach and detach from the belt but also fit his flashlight perfectly and never accidentally detach or fail. This one didn’t get finished in time, but it would have been perfect
For a local club we put on a show each Halloween on computer programming and electronics. In addition to the face-tracking robotic monster I mentioned before, I’ve printed a mount for a light emitter / sensor to detect a hand entering and exiting a Batman candy dish. The simplest print I’ve ever done but the project wouldn’t have worked well without that simple part.
We designed a new retaining sleeve for my son’s watchband and finished printing it before realizing that… there was no way to get it onto the existing band I felt pretty stupid! But it only took a few minutes to print and cost about $0.02 in plastic.
Without a doubt, the biggest project I’ve done is my son’s Ringinator (Google this… it’s interesting). This is a machine that cuts jump rings for weaving into chain maille armor. His Grandfather actually built the machine 90% of the way in his shop and did a great job. But there were issues with lubrication and coolant that needed to be solved. I had to produce a shroud to go around the blade and some shim plates to adjust the bearing lubrication and size and shape of the cutting channel to accommodate different sizes of wire and coils. I also needed a sump of some kind and a circulation system. I did a lot of printing on the first design and had to scrap it all. The second design works fine. Even a 5-axis CNC mill would have had a hard time producing the main parts that I made for this but some other parts should have been done in aluminum with a CNC mill. It’s good to have both.
My wife has a small dresser next to the bed which has 5 drawers. The faces had broken off of two of them. I measured the ridiculous plastic brackets that came with the dresser, beefed them up and printed 8 of them. I also used some wood glue ('cause it’s wood furniture and wood furniture should use wood glue) and those brackets will outlast the bottom of the drawer now. This project was not especially victorious. I could buy new brackets or maybe even use just the wood glue. But it was cheap and easy, it worked out well and the wife was pleased.
I was building a new computer last week and realized I have a 2.5" SSD and no slots for it. No problem. I could 3D print a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter. But there were not even 3.5" slots in that computer case (??? WHY ???) and there were no existing designs (that would work) for a 5.25" to 2.5" adapter. So I modified a 2.5" HDD mount for an empty PCI slot and mounted the SSD. I didn’t have to buy anything, I didn’t have to wait for it to ship and I didn’t have to wonder if it would work when it arrived. I did it overnight in my PJs in the color of my choice.
Then, of course, there are the upgrades to the printers themselves. Everyone does it and it’s very satisfying. I designed a Thingiverse Customizer script to generate custom bearing flanges for my printer filament spools. They worked out spectacularly.
I don’t think there’s much room left for opposition to 3D printers. Chinese Prusa i3 knockoffs are plentiful starting at $200 so unless you’re serious about 3D printing and want a nicer one, it’s easy to get started. It seems to me that if you are in the market for a $4000+ laser or a $1000+ home CNC mill, it should be easy to justify a $200+ printer.
There is nearly nothing that I make with my 3D printer that would be better on a laser cutter or a CNC mill except where I want it made of wood or aluminum. I don’t think that a laser substantially diminishes the usefulness or cost justification of a 3D printer.
I own an older PrintrBot LC2 Plus 3D printer. It has a heated bed (aluminum), 8"x8"x9" area, single 1.75mm extruder, custom OctoPrint server host.
Wow! That’s one heck of a list! (I’m feeling kind of bad for not using mine as much now…)
Well no point describing the dozens fo things I’ve printed that have saved the day as several have already done this. I will say though that only you can answer your question and then maybe only after owning one.
I use the daylights out of mine but I have bought other smart tools such as the Silhouette cameo and it mostly sits so a lot depends on how you approach things on whether or not you will find enough use cases to justify it.
Mine is paying for itself. I never saw that coming when I bought it. I print the “commodity” level handle for my Bee Sharp knife sharpener with it and I love that I can produce them on demand and quickly implement any design improvements. Sure, one day I may need to go to injection molding but for today my FDM printer works great.
A couple of things if you decide to pull the trigger:
Get one that will handle the heat. You will find SO many more use cases if you can print in a filament that won’t print with a cheap machine. Nylons and T-glase work so well for some projects where if you can only print in PLA or ABS you just would not get the same results.
Get one that has self-leveling. This takes the biggest PITA out of the equation.
Impressive list! I’ve got a super cheap printer coming and hope I can even make a single-item list of accomplishment. We’ll see. You’ll be my inspiration.
I hate to mention it, but there are no penguins at the North Pole either. They live on the South Pole. Polar bears, yes.
I may be biased because I was one of the RepRap core team that started the cheap 3D printer era. I made my own machine from scratch and with that printed thousands more and shipped them all over the world.
I also have a two CNC routers and a CNC lathe. At least 90% of the things I make are much easier to do with a 3D printer than by other tools. For example yesterday I designed and printed this:
The work flow was slice, upload to OctoPrint, switch my machine on remotely and press print. The machine is in my garage converted into a workshop and I watched it print via a webcam. The only physical interaction with the machine was to remove the object and the priming skirt and then wipe the glass with acetone ready for the next time I might use it.
Much easier than CNC or Laser workflow. No material to place, no scrap, other than a tiny priming loop. It did take 5 hours to print but I didn’t need to watch over it. I am confident my machines won’t catch fire any more likely than my fridge catching fire.
I pressed heat fit thread inserts into all the stepped holes you can see with a soldering iron. I knocked out the support column, which is actually a thin tube and fitted an IEC socket in the rectangular hole. A cable with an IEC plug clamps into the cable clamp and a 13A UK mains socket screws onto the top. The bridge shaped piece goes over the wall bracket which holds a TV on my bedroom wall. This box simply intercepts its existing mains supply and allows a ChromeCast mains adaptor to be plugged in.
Imagine how much work it would take to manufacture this with other tools.
A 3D printer is additive, a CNC is subtractive and a laser is subtractive with less the mess. Plus, the material base (for types and handling) is quite different than a CNC.
You definitely a greater position on 3D printers. The ability to create/replace things is what makes them very useful. The skill set for designing is truly cross platform (3D printer, CNC and laser).
Great prints and resolution. Printer?
I now have a printerbot (the old laser cut ply kind) and haven’t had the time to tweak it into a working state lol. If only it were as simple as design and hit a big greenish button (wow i got specific there didn’t I ;))
But GlowForge isn’t that either. It seems to be load file and assign each colour to an operation, position the design on the material, then press the green button. Whereas with a 3D printer it is slice file and then load the gcode and print. A 3D printer is a simpler, faster, more automatic workflow than GlowForge. Granted GlowForge is a lot simpler than other laser cutters but no laser cutter will ever be simpler workflow than a 3D printer.
Which is kind of where I ended up. Sure I could make some things that would be useful but the time to create the design, print it, tweak it, reprint it, fuss with the air print that came out, reprint and then use it tended to be way more than heading to Google to find what I needed and order it. I found that most of what I thought I was “inventing” was actually commercially available already or could be modified from something commercially available for a lot less time & effort.
I’m a tech early adopter but couldn’t find a compelling use case. Funny, but the first one I bought cost what my GF cost
Darn you people! So what do you suggest for an entry level printer?
I think the first part of my hesitation is an apparent misnomer of printed parts having no strength.
The second is I have always designed parts to be produced on the machines that I have, and that often includes work arounds. So I think I might just need to remove those mental design barriers. [quote=“palmercr, post:30, topic:4525”]
It did take 5 hours to print but I didn’t need to watch over it.
Although I could CNC that In five hours it would involve me for a lot of that time.
I have a Lulzbot Mini and one of the things I like most about it is that it just worked straight out of the box, and has kept on working. I have no room for another hobby that involves spending more time futzing with the machine than actually using it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: I often use the analogy that some people buy a motorcycle to ride it and other people buy a motorcycle because they want to spend the weekends taking it apart and putting it back together. (I know nothing about motorcycles but this is what I observe) Both are valid, but in my case I was willing to pay for the convenience of a printer that spends more time printing than being taken apart. That being said, they’re all still a bit fussy.
I also have a CNC router, and that’s the thing that never gets used. There’s a huge overhead for me to do a project on it. Just clamping the piece down is an exercise in frustration, and then I have to deal with tool paths and end mills and feeds and speeds and touch plates and zeroing and the thing not being level enough and sawdust everywhere and a decent chance that I didn’t get everything perfectly set up and it runs into something or cuts into the waste board or doesn’t cut deep enough etc. etc. Whereas with the 3D printer, most of the time it’s download a file from Thingiverse, load it into Cura, save out the gcode, and print. I made at least 40 of those little trees and not a single print failed.
This all ties into why I jumped on the Glowforge and why I’m still holding out for it rather than a laser I could get today. I want a machine that’s as reliable as possible, so when I only have a few hours on a Saturday to work on a project, I can actually work on it rather than replacing the water pump or realigning the mirrors. I hope, after all the anticipation, it works out that way!
So for those who have not seen the video I made, when my colleagues scoffed that I could produce a structurally trough part on my 3D printer to replace a stainless steel retractor blade (that could also survive autoclaving, and was FDA approved material) watch here.
Now, let’s not get too carried away. 3D printing requires a lot of tweaking and in many ways is an art (just like laser cutting and especially CNC milling. All of them have many, many variables including material, environment, design intent/complexity, etc. I think the GF will be complex in real life (sure if all you want to do is “xerox” a drawing onto wood, sure, but beyond that those beta-projects are more than that).
The challenge with that is that there is always another generation coming that will be better. Sort of like computers, there is always a cheaper/faster/better variant coming. With any technology you should adopt because it meets a need you have currently with a cost/benefit ratio that is acceptable. Of course when it is for work the equations may change but still same concept.
The challenge with this concept is “things which should be made of plastic” is a very fluid definition. I face this all the time, with “it’s been made of xxx for 200 years, why change?” which may be because steel is exactly the right material, or just that making it out of “plastic” (whatever that means) was really hard by say injection molding. With the retractor blade above (the video) I heard that I couldn’t make it out of plastic (in that case Nylon 910) because it wasn’t as strong as steel. That is of course true, but given the printed model has an >5000psi tensile strength and a modulus well over 60000psi, which exceeds the strength of the bone it is retracting against, who cares. Sure I can’t retract a car off the patient, but for spreading ribs, since it is tougher than the patient, it’s enough. And I am producing shapes that short of a 5-axis CNC you couldn’t (and if required could go beyond that)
And finally I will note that the largest learning curve (after learning basics of 3D printing) will be CAD. Sure just printing other’s designs of thingiverse is one thing, but designing your own is way, way steeper as a learning curve versus the printer itself. It’s like printing someone’s PDF on your laser versus doing an incredible design in illustrator. It took months for me to become really, really proficient in CAD (I now teach classes at the hospital). And it’s not just learning the tools (that’s not that hard) it’s learning what works as a design (since you are both the CAD guy, manufacturing guy and the industrial engineer on your own projects).
Oh, and perfect example this morning was in this topic, where his problem (woodworking) was solved by 3D printing:
It’s actually on the 3D printer at home right now. We will see how it turns out!
10 hour print. I’m kicking myself for not doing solid fill for extra stability